Federal Judge Reggie Walton appears to have an axe to grind directly on Donald Trump, but he may be doing both the President and the American public a big favor.
On the surface it looks like he’s just another Trump hating liberal judge trying to make Trump look like a fool. The flip side is that he could be tossing Trump a lifeline. The jury’s still out on his motivation and a lot depends on the next White House move.
Judge demands to hear direct from the president
Judge Walton is demanding that President Donald Trump put his money where his thumbs are. If he really meant what he said in his October 6 tweet, now is the time to say so. He can back down and clarify if he choses but the Judge wants to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.
He has solid legal justification to demand it. What POTUS tweeted on his official account seems an awful lot like a clear and simple direct order to the judge and a bunch of other people. If the White House lawyers are trying to hold Trump hostage to Deep State caution over the revelation of “sources and methods,” this is his big chance to break loose. If it was exaggeration or miscommunication, then now is the time to deal with it.
The Judge held a special teleconference on Friday to kick the issue around. At the end, he ordered the Justice Department to go directly to President Trump for an answer, then scheduled a hearing for Wednesday to get Trump’s response.
The specific question to be answered is “whether recent tweets and statements by him constituted orders to declassify, unredact, and make public special counsel Robert Mueller’s entire report along with all of the FBI interviews connected to that investigation.” A yes or no will work just fine, either way, as long as it comes straight from Donald J. Trump and not a White House staffer or Oval Office lawyer.
The underlying case is a fight over a FOIA request issued by Buzzfeed, the outlet who published Christopher Steele’s dirty dossier in uncut form. It was later determined to be entirely made up. Buzzfeed has been fighting to get their hands on the full and uncut version of Robert Mueller’s report from April 2019.
The one on Russian interference in the 2016 election that found in the end that President Trump did not collude with Russia. The report found plenty of Russian meddling but none involving Trump. People are starting to wonder if the stuff under the magic marker lines implicates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama or both.
Justice Department answer ‘not good enough’
At Friday’s hearing, the DOJ argued they “conferred with the White House counsel’s office” on the subject and were told “Trump’s pronouncements did not constitute specific declassification orders.” Associate Deputy Attorney General G. Bradley Weinsheimer stated that the Justice Department was “informed that the President’s statements on Twitter were not self-executing declassification orders and do not require the declassification of any particular documents.” The judge wasn’t buying it.
“I do think that a president obviously has the exclusive authority to declassify information. I think when a president makes an unambiguous statement indicating that he was declassifying information, I don’t think anything more, at least based upon what I’ve been told, is required.”
What Trump told the entire world on October 6 was, “I have fully authorized the total Declassification of any & all documents pertaining to the single greatest political CRIME in American History, the Russia Hoax. Likewise, the Hillary Clinton Email Scandal. No redactions!” He followed that up with “all Russia Hoax Scandal information was Declassified by me long ago. Unfortunately for our Country, people have acted very slowly, especially since it is perhaps the biggest political crime in the history of our Country. Act!!!
That sounds pretty clear to Buzzfeed and they have been waiting for it a long time. The judge agreed, especially because Trump followed the tweets up with verbal testimony on the Rush Limbaugh radio show. “I’ve fully declassified everything.
Everything’s been declassified.” There were basically 4 words in that sentence: I, fully, declassified, everything. That doesn’t leave a whole lot to argue about. The judge thinks “the American public has a right to rely upon what their president says about what his intent is.”
The judge isn’t trying to force Trump to hand it all over just because he tweeted it. He’s letting him clarify his position while rightfully demanding this one get settled from the top.
He pushed it all back to Wednesday, noting, “I’m going to have to continue this matter to a hearing date next week when government counsel can find out, and I can get something from White House counsel saying that they conferred with the president, and the president, in fact, did not intend to declassify the information regarding the 2016 election interference by Russia, and that he did not intend to conclude that there should be no redactions. I think I need something more emphatic indicating that this is the president’s position and not just White House counsel’s position.”